Meet Beth Ross, the first teenaged President of the United States. In a nation where corporations can run for office, the poor are used as human billboards, and tacos are delivered by drone, our only hope is this nineteen-year-old Twitter sensation. But the real question isn’t whether she’s ready for politics – it’s whether politics is ready for her. Don’t miss the start of this new, 12-issue miniseries!
After the surprise announcement of Prez as part of the New DC You(niverse,) fans had no idea what to expect. The concept even contained a new female lead who seemingly has little to do with Prez Rickard, the original character that first wore the (Prez) mantle (if there was/is a Prez mantle to be worn.) DC chose prose author Mark Russell mostly known for his own satirical views on religion with the book God is Disappointed in You to write the tale. In the new Prez mini-series, Russell is joined by artist Ben Caldwell — a cartoonist containing the alternative sensibilities that really makes the book stand against the current house style at DC.
The concept of the story is a really odd mix of a traditional narrative and wish fulfillment. Thankfully, Russell seems to be aware of exactly how silly this concept about a young girl winning the presidency actually is (especially in a big superhero shared universe.) He depicts the various politicians as individuals who are desperate and looking to quickly fill the hole at the very top of the White House with someone that has a limited number of scantily clad selfies floating around the internet. The series takes place in the future, and shows the degeneration of our culture due to advancements of technology in really striking ways. While we as a society seem to lack a certain amount of empathy as it is, this is the next generation who were plugged into Iphones before they were out of diapers. The world of Prez looks different from our own, but shows a natural and dangerous version of the future.
Ben Caldwell’s art perfectly suits the story at hand. The rounded edges in his linework humanize Beth and illustrate something morose bleak future of Prez #1, turning it into a place that readers should be at least slightly afraid of. Caldwell’s art will miss a detail in a certain panel on a facial expression and at times, his own sparse linework will actually add to the unique style being evoked directly to the page. No matter how serious a panel in Prez, there’s always something unique and interesting about it — whether it be a strange pattern on a curtain in the background, someone feminine equipped with a thin mustache, or little jokes littered within the holograms on the side of panels. This comic serves as a warning to jaded millennials everywhere but does so with style and grace via the deft eye of Caldwell, Mark Morales, and Jeremy Lawson.
So…this book has a pretty bleak outlook on the entirety of society. Instead of littering Beth Ross herself with flaws, Russell turns his eye towards the degeneration of society and points to some pretty striking truths. Can politics and the internet coexist in a peaceful matrimony? Prez doesn’t think so, and presents many reasons why these two things cancel out each other. When Justin Bieber and Obama are guests on the same Youtube show, this comic turns into a biting satire of the internet age. This is all connected to the first title starring Rickard, as the original 70’s title was also a seething take on the corrupt world of politics. Thankfully this incarnation has something different to say while still honoring the spirit of the original series.
Speaking of the original series, fans will be delighted to see the surprise reveal at the end of this issue harkening back to the already established canon of Prez. Unfortunately, this issue is so concerned with tying all the mythology back into the plot that the character of Beth Ross is not fleshed out very well, barely able to interact with the story. This issue is mostly texture, filling in the ultra-detailed world of the future and setting the landscape for those that are invested in the story. For new fans, I would really recommend picking up the first four issues on sale and diving into those before going ahead and starting this story so the last page reveal won’t be lost on you and the texture and tone of the world will be more familiar to you. If not, a quick google search will suffice. Caldwell and Russell may not introduce Beth Ross to her fullest extent as a character, but they have created a really interesting world showing us how staring at our screens has alienated us from the political realm.